CCA graduate juggles sports, volunteer work on her way to nursing career

Darby Pender received a scholarship to Lehigh Carbon Community College to study health sciences.

The moment CCA senior and honors student Darby Pender stepped into a children’s hospital in Haiti where she was surrounded by sick babies, she knew pediatric nursing was her calling.

“I wanted to love on them and take care of them as long as I could,” said Darby, 18, of Slatington, Lehigh County. “I find joy in serving others, and nursing is a perfect profession. I get to be a light in people’s day. It’s exactly what I want to do.”

Because of the flexibility of CCA's schedule, Darby was able to take this mission trip with her church, captain Northern Lehigh High School’s varsity track team, serve as its varsity soccer captain — until her third concussion took her out of competition — and work part time. She also fit in trips to Disney, volunteering with her church, serving at church services and working as a summer church-camp counselor.

“The flexibility that CCA offers is tremendous. I love that I was able to do all of that,” said Darby, who was selected as a graduation speaker for the class of 2017.

Darby turned her academic and extracurricular success into a full-tuition scholarship in the honors scholar program at Lehigh Carbon Community College to study health sciences. After that, she plans to transfer to a four-year school to study for a bachelor’s in nursing.

“CCA has been such a blessing,” said Darby, who moved to CCA for her freshman year after dealing with bullying issues. She also sought a greater academic challenge. Her oldest brother, now in the Army stationed in Kuwait, graduated from CCA two years ago.

“CCA is a great learning environment and makes you challenge yourself in ways you didn’t think you could,” she said. “You need self-motivation, dedication and confidence in yourself. I really grew as a person.”